Given names: 
Given address: 
Sheet No: 186

Biographical information provided by Canterbury Museum for the He Tohu exhibition. Additional information has also been contributed in the comments field.

Susanna Tanner was born in Wales in 1846, the daughter of Aaron Tanner, a collier. She married John Isherwood at the age of 21, in the parish church of Llangywyd in the county of Glamorgan.

As a child Susanna Tanner had her right arm amputated, but despite this remained a very capable and rather formidable woman. Family stories of how she lost the arm differ: one story is that it was amputated after a fall down stairs; another is that the arm was crushed when a big lump of coal fell on it.

Susanna sang in a choir in her home town and on the ship to New Zealand organised activities for the other passengers. John and Susanna and two children arrived in New Zealand in December 1876 and took up farming in the Springfield district. Here Susanna raised a large family of eight children, managing to accomplish all the usual household tasks, including mending and embroidery, with her one arm.

With Clara Alley she represented the Malvern Women's Institute at the first meeting of the National Council of Women (NCW) in April 1896. Susanna also attended the second meeting of the NCW in 1897, and in 1898 she read a paper, urging equal pay and trade unions for women, at a meeting of the Canterbury Women's Institute in Christchurch. At another meeting in the same year she read a paper on gambling.

Three of Susanna's daughters became teachers. The eldest daughter Kate was an early graduate of Canterbury College, while Eleanor Isherwood taught at Purau for twenty years.

Susanna died in 1915.

Click on sheet number to see the 1893 petition sheet this signature appeared on. Digital copies of the sheets supplied by Archives New Zealand.

Community contributions

4 comments have been posted about Susanna Isherwood

What do you know?

Helen Churchman (née Somerville)

Posted: 19 Jan 2019

I think it is marvelous that we can read about my grandmother on this website - my mother Grace Somerville (née Isherwood) was Susanna's third daughter.

Alyson Howell,

Posted: 11 Feb 2018

this is to correct an error I made in the earlier comment. Susanna's children were Kate, Grace, Frank, Mark, Eleanor and Alice.

Alyson Howell

Posted: 07 Jul 2016

Susanna Isherwood was my great grandmother. She was a founding member of the National Council of Women and is in the photograph of the first meeting. She and her friend Mrs Elley were representatives from Springfield Country Womens Institute. Susanna, also known as Selina, had her arm amputated at the elbow due to a skating accident. Susanna and John emigrated to NZ from Wales. Before they came to NZ they lived in Texas for a time, but when back to Wales because it was too violent in Texas. They had 5 children, Mark, Philip, Grace, Katy Eleanor and Alice; Alice was my grandmother. The NCW photograph was in Alice's front room in pride of place for many years until she donated it back to the NCW. We have the cape that Susanna wore in the photograph. The family were very committed to education and two daughters Grace and Eleanor were early graduates of Canterbury University. Susannah died at Burwood in 1915 and is buried at Burwood Cemetry.

Susanna Ferrar

Posted: 26 Nov 2011

Susanna Isherwood was my great-grandmother. I was told she was one of only three women collecting signatures on petitions for women's suffrage in South Canterbury. This is her name on sheet 186, with no further address than "Sheffield". I know she lived in Burwood at some point and is buried there. There is another Isherwood signature later on - Mrs J - with an address in Sydenham. My great-grandfather was John, so I wonder if she signed twice.... Just a thought!